If you already have other autoimmune disorders you may be at higher risk of autoimmune damage to the gonads. These can include disorders that affect the liver and adrenal and thyroid glands as well as type 1 diabetes.
In central hypogonadism, the centers in the brain that control the gonads (hypothalamus and pituitary) do not function properly. Causes of central hypogonadism include:
Bleeding in the area of the pituitary
Taking medicines, such as glucocorticoids and opiates
You may need to take hormone-based medicines. Estrogen and progesterone are used for girls and women. The medicines comes come in the form of a pill or skin patch. Testosterone is used for boys and men. The medicine can be given as a skin patch, skin gel, a solution applied to the armpit, a patch applied to the upper gum, or by injection.
For women who have not had their uterus removed, combination treatment with estrogen and progesterone may decrease the chance of developing endometrial cancer. Women with hypogonadism who have low sex drive may also be prescribed low-dose testosterone.
In some women, injections or pills can be used to stimulate ovulation. Injections of pituitary hormone may be used to help men produce sperm. Other people may need surgery and radiation therapy.
Many forms of hypogonadism are treatable and have a good outlook.
In women, hypogonadism may cause infertility. Menopause is a form of hypogonadism that occurs naturally and can cause hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and irritability as a woman's estrogen levels fall. The risk of osteoporosis and heart disease increase after menopause.
Some women with hypogonadism take estrogen therapy, especially those who have early menopause. But long-term used of hormone therapy can increase the risk of breast cancer, blood clots and heart disease. Women should talk with their health care provider about the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy with your doctor.
In men, hypogonadism results in loss of sex drive and may cause:
Men normally have lower testosterone as they age. However, the decline in hormone levels is not as dramatic as it is in women.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Talk to your health care provider if you notice:
Breast enlargement (men)
Hot flashes (women)
Loss of body hair
Loss of menstrual period
Problems getting pregnant
Problems with your sex drive
Both men and women should call their provider if they have headaches or vision problems.
Maintain normal body weight and healthy eating habits may help in some cases. Other causes may not be preventable.
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Bhasin S, Cunningham GR, Hayes FJ, et al. Testosterone therapy in adult men with androgen deficiency syndromes: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010;95:2536-59. PMID: 20525905 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20525905
Kansra AR, Donohoue PA. Hypofunction of the ovaries. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 580.
Swerdloff RS, Wang C. The testis and male sexual function. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 242.
Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.